Drill Down to Step Up Hand Hygiene Compliance

Measurement is an essential step in improvement initiatives. The more data points and the more specific the data, the more easily leaders can identify specific areas for improvement. Summerville (S.C.) Hospital put this principle into action with the implementation of an automated hand hygiene tracking system. In a pilot study in the intensive care unit, hand hygiene compliance increased 29 percent in eight weeks. From the beginning of roll out in spring 2012 to full deployment in February 2013, the hospital has seen an overall increase in hand hygiene compliance of 25 percent, according to Lou Caputo, CEO of the hospital.

Lou Caputo is CEO of Summerville Hospital.
Lou Caputo
Identifying improvement opportunities
The hand hygiene compliance tracking system, called GE AgileTrac Hand Hygiene, captures whether clinicians wash their hands or use hand sanitizers every time they enter and exit the room. Radio-frequency identification tags are placed on every person's badge, and every soap and hand sanitizer dispenser has an RFID reading device that activates when someone pulls the lever to wash his or her hands. Every room is also equipped with sensors; when an employee enters and exits the room, he or she has 30 seconds to use the hand sanitizer or soap dispenser to be marked as compliant.

Fran Dirksmeier is general manager of global asset management at GE Healthcare.
Fran Dirksmeier
Data on specific individuals and departments enable hospital leaders to conduct targeted coaching to improve hand hygiene, which optimizes resource use. "It's a very sharp tool, driving coaching to [reach] the goal of 100 percent compliance," says Fran Dirksmeier, general manager of global asset management at GE Healthcare. Rather than a negative or punitive tool, the automated tracking of hand hygiene compliance offers an opportunity to improve quality, he says.

Transparency to engage clinicians
Hand hygiene compliance data is tracked in real time and displayed on dashboards for leaders to reference and share with clinicians. Being transparent with the data is critical for engaging clinicians in the improvement initiative and promoting a culture of safety, according to Mr. Caputo. "[The data] give us a foundation for dialogue on what we can do better; it allows us to engage with individuals over a trend," he says.

Using the data as a starting point for conversation about hand hygiene, patient safety and infection control can help leaders identify successful strategies that can be shared with other individuals and departments. For example, speaking with clinicians in a department with high hand hygiene compliance may reveal tips other departments can use to improve their compliance rates. "For individuals who do a good job, we try to understand if they did something different from their peers in their workflow that we can share with others. For [individuals] not doing well, we try to understand why they're struggling to get to the level where others are and give them the tools to improve," Mr. Caputo says.

Supporting a culture of safety
The hand hygiene compliance technology is designed not only to improve compliance rates, but also to support a culture of safety. "My goal is to make it part of the culture, not to be simply a rollout of technology or an initiative," Mr. Caputo says. "The technology and data are valuable in reinforcing that culture."

More Articles on Hand Hygiene:

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4 Infection Prevention Strategies

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